Vermont recently joined two other New England states – Maine and Connecticut – and passed a law to require labels on food that contains genetically modified ingredients. Similar labeling laws have been proposed in two dozen other states. A push is on for a federal labeling requirement.
We favor giving consumers as much information as possible about the products they buy and consume. We wonder, though, if the state-by-state push for mandatory labeling of genetically modified food will do more to frighten people than to inform them.
Ample research and decades of experience have shown that genetically modified crop technology is safe. People have been consuming genetically modified food for years. The vast majority of Midwest corn and soybeans used for animal feed and many pantry staples is genetically modified.
Moreover, this technology represents an astonishingly effective way to increase the food supply – to feed a rapidly expanding global population.
Labeling should inform the public, not prompt alarm. It’s better to do this at the national rather than local level. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration permits food manufacturers to indicate through voluntary labeling if foods have not been developed through genetic engineering. The agency requires the labels to be truthful but otherwise has no formal requirements.
If people don’t want to consume genetically modified food, they have a ready option: Buy organic. The Agriculture Department requires that foods labeled 100 percent organic contain no genetically modified ingredients.
It’s not a question of when you’re going to ingest genetically modified. Chances are, you already are.